Handicapping week 5

We begin this week with pair of battling mascots.

Two weeks ago, in Columbus, mighty Ohio State clobbered its in-state rival Ohio; 43 -7.  But the real action occurred before the game, when the Ohio mascot, Rufus the Bobcat, tackled Ohio State’s mascot Brutus Buckeye from behind, touching off an impromptu wrestling match.  The entire episode was witnessed by over 100,000 angry Scarlet and Grey zealots. 

It seems the culprit, Ohio student Brandon Henning, had been planning this stunt for over a year, ever since he got the mascot gig.  His actions forced Ohio University to issue an apology to Ohio State, and this nit-wit, who is no longer enrolled at Ohio, was banned from any further affiliation with Ohio Athletics.  The best line came from Bobcat Coach Frank Solich who said, “Obviously, we needed to tackle the guy with the ball, not the mascot.”  Succinctly, and perfectly put.  This weekend, let’s see which teams perform like its masquerading as football team, and which parades with its mascot in a victory celebration.  

No.7 Florida at No.1 Alabama (Ch.4, 8 p.m.)  This is the ultimate pay back for the Gators, who are riding a regular season winning streak that has climbed to two-dozen. Unfortunately for the Swamp Faithful, Tim Tebow is not walking through that locker room door.  Florida’s offense (78th overall) which had been as reliable as Lindsay Lohan staying out of jail might be starting to find its chomp.   Junior QB John Brantley (6 touchdown passes – 1 interception) with assists from his water bug tailback Jeffrey Demps (foot bruise – probable), receiver Deonte Thompson, and newly installed eye-opening true freshman; qb/wr/rb, Trey Burton are beginning to find its persona and the end zone.  The Gators ferocious D, behind tackle Jaye Howard and backer Jelani Jenkins swallows runners better than Joey Chestnut, surrenders less than 15 points a game, and leads the nation in interceptions with twelve.

The Bama backfield could challenge the Kenyans.  These yardage churners led by All-America and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, who runs like Secretariat, (an eye popping 9 yards a carry), and his running mate Trent Richardson, blend together, better than Gleason and Carney.  The Tides UFC-tough triggerman is; “Mr. Undefeated,” senior quarterback Greg McElroy (leg contusion), who is seventh in the nation in pass efficiency, and a better leader than the entire Congress.  The QB, who has won 17 consecutive SEC games, has a Linus-blanket, big-play target in All-America wideout Julio Jones.  The nation’s stingiest D, who has surrendered a jaw-dropping combined total of six points in the second half, and is allowing less than 10 points a game, is anchored by a trio of All-Americas; end Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, and safety Mark Barron. In Tuscaloosa, the Tide, who has won 28 consecutive regular season games, continues to rise, as Alabama answers another huge challenge.  One other note; the team ranked No.1 in the AP poll is 27-0 at home since 1995.  Roll Tide.

No.9 Stanford at No.4 Oregon (Ch.5, 8 p.m.)  The Cardinal is flying.  Stanford, under its fiery coach Jim Harbaugh is off to its best start (4-0) since Ronald Reagan was sitting in the Oval Office – 1986.  The nation’s fourth highest scoring offense (48 points a game), is directed by its dual-threat QB, Andrew Luck (11 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions), with assists from a pair of chain moving tailbacks Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor.  When Luck takes to the air, his accuracy is greatly enhanced, courtesy of receivers; Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whelan.  The country’s twelfth stingiest D (13 points a game) is dotted with disruptors reflective of its coach’s personality, and is led by end Chase Thomas and tackle Sione Fua. 

In Eugene, it’s been; a Duck feeding frenzy.  Oregon, the highest scoring eleven in the land (57 points a game), motors behind its All-America tailback LaMichael James and his running partner Remene Alston.  That running attack, the nation’s third best, has comforted Sophomore QB Darron Thomas (10 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions) who  is maturing into an equal partner, especially when he focuses on his pair of glue fingered targets; Jeff Maehl and David Paulson.  The D, attacks behind tackles Brandon Bair, Zac Clark and backer Casey Matthews.  This group leads the country in turnovers gained, and is the nation’s third (11 points a game) toughest to crack.  In Autzen Stadium, one of the loudest stadiums in the college landscape, the Duck feeding frenzy continues as the Green from Eugene soars over the Cardinal.

No.21Texas vs. No.8 Oklahoma – Dallas, Cotton Bowl (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.)  In the spirit of Diogenes, the Horns are continuing its search for any offensive consistency.  UT’s sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert (4 touchdown passes – 4 interceptions, 63% completions) has performed below Austin expectations, while the best runner in the Texas stable, (which ranks 76th overall), might be its mascot; Bevo.  The receiving corps, led by Mike Davis, and James Kirkendoll, has operated more like the Texas two-step.  The D, a deceiving, second overall, is anchored by a pair of All-Americas; end Sam Acho, corner Curtis Brown, and has kept Mack Brown season off life-support.

To paraphrase Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers, Oklahoma has been whistling down the offensive plain, but remains at a whistle-stop; on defense.  The Sooners offense is directed by its dynamic sophomore quarterback (9 touchdown passes -3 interceptions) Landry Jones.  The OU gunslinger is greatly assisted by his game breaking pair; tailback DeMarco Murray, who is having a Heisman Trophy season, and his Store 24 (always open) All-America target, Ryan Broyles, who leads the nation in receptions per game with ten.  The D, which features a pair of All-Americas; end Jeremy Beal, and backer Travis Lewis, ranks 97th overall, and has looked as woeful as Jack E. Robinson does to the electorate on a Massachusetts election ballot.   In the Red River Rivalry, where Texas has won four of the last five, we are tempted to go with the desperate Horns, but we think Diogenes continues his search, as the Stormers from Norman, in a shootout, prevail.

No.11 Wisconsin at No. 24 Michigan State (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m. regional) The Badgers, who are 13-11, and 4-8 on the road in Big Ten play over the last three years, has bludgeoned teams, by pounding its 250 pound All-America battering ram, John Clay.  Wiscy’s bulldozer, who is riding a streak of ten consecutive 100 yard games, is given the occasional breather by his very talented backfield mate; James White.  The entire Madison operation is directed by the steady senior leadership of QB Scott Tolzein (70% completions), and his targets Lance Kendricks and Issac Anderson.  The Mad-Town D, which surrenders less than 15 points a game, is anchored by ends; Louis Nzegwu, J.J. Watt, and backer Kevin Rouse.

The Spartans, who are attempting to start 5-0 for the first time in 11 years when a guy named Nick Saban roamed its sidelines, can also till some soil.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins, commands a group of earth movers; tailbacks Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell who have combined for 970 yards rushing.  And when the QB takes to the air, he has the luxury of focusing on a threesome of big-play targets; B.J. Cuningham, Kershawn Martin, and tight end Lance Kendricks.  The D, led by All-America backer Greg Jones and fellow backer Eric Gordon crushes runners, but is very susceptible defending the pass.  Sparty has lost 14 of its last 15 to ranked opponents, and in a rock’em-sock’em, seesaw battle, we think the crew from Mad-Town batters its way to victory.

Virginia Tech at No. 23 NC State (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m. regional) The Hokies offense is like Switzerland, stuck in a state of neutral.  The leader of this mediocre bunch is its dual-threat QB Tyrod Taylor (5-touchdown passes – 2 interceptions) who also leads the team in rushing.  He is assisted by his All-America tailback Ryan Williams, his partner Darren Evans and field stretching wideouts; Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale.  This group, at least so far, will not cause any sleepless nights for the opposition’s defensive coordinator.  VaTech’s D-coordinator Bud Foster young guns, led by backer Bruce Taylor, end Steven Friday and safety Eddie Whitley is slowly maturing into the traditional nasty persona expected in Blacksburg. 

NC State finds itself in the rankings for the first time since 2003.  Old friend Tom O’Brien, and these Sons of Phillip Rivers, might finally have something smoking in Raleigh.  The Wolfpack is led by its starry QB Russell Wilson (11 touchdown passes – 1 interception) who makes a mistake about as often as Einstein.  The rest of the top-twenty offense fires behind tailbacks Mustafa Greene, Dean Haynes, and a three-pack of receivers; Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, and T.J. Graham.  The D also has its own threesome of fast paced intimidators; backers Nate Irving, Audie Cole and Terell Manning.  O’Brien has never started 5-0 in his career, but we think the smoke signals in Raleigh read; the Wolfpack howls to another victory.

(Material from other sources was used in compiling this report.)

Last week’s record:  4-1                                          Season record:  14-6.

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